Town faces biggest rise under a new tax regime

Five reasons why this Kent town is in the UK's top 20

Residents living in Tonbridge town are facing a 20 per cent hike, just under £40, in their borough council tax bill next year.

Those in the town pay a different level to people in surrounding villages in the borough. Residents of places such as Shipbourne and Hadlow are liable for a ‘precept’ for services provided by their parish/town council on top of the usual bill.

The change, named the Special Expenses Scheme, is intended to redress this imbalance so that only local communities will be charged for the costs of their specific facilities.

Figures released last week by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council show that the authority’s share of B and D property bills in the town will rise to £232.06 compared to £192.51 the previous year. This constitutes a 20.5 per cent increase, or £39.55.

The overall bill, which includes payments for Kent County Council, Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner and Kent Fire & Rescue, will be £1,641.38 for a Band D property, a 5.8 per cent rise from last year.

Despite the increase, the town still has one of the lowest totals of all areas in the borough.

Cllr Martin Coffin, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Our overriding objective this year is to protect the key services we provide at a borough council level.

“This continues to be very challenging given the substantial reductions in central government funding but the Council is well aware of how important public services are to our residents.”

As reported by the Times last week, the council are looking to find £1.6million over the next four years in savings. This is due to a substantial loss of funds that have been imposed by a new financial settlement with central government. It is estimated that the borough council will receive 42.8 per cent less money from Whitehall in 2019 compared to now.

Council Leader, Cllr Nicolas Heslop, has previously described the settlement as ‘enormously frustrating and disappointing’. This week he added:

“This is the first time that this authority has had to set the budget in the knowledge that the government revenue support grant is no longer available to us.

“Paying for services provided by the borough council – emptying the bins, sweeping the streets, providing a housing service, the planning function, licensing, leisure activities, parks – is now wholly dependent upon on taxation, a share of business rates, charging and how we make best use of the council’s capital resources.”


Special Expenses Scheme

The change follows a review of council tax last year which sought to strike a rebalancing of bills between those in Tonbridge town and the surrounding rural areas.

The smaller areas have fewer borough council services because they are provided by parish councils, which are funded by a ‘parish precept’ paid by local residents.

To redress this, the ‘Special Expenses Scheme’ has been established. It encompasses services that only applies to certain areas, such as maintenance of parks, play areas and sports grounds. The new approach means that only local communities will be charged for the costs of their specific facilities.

It is this change that has led to the greater increase in bill for Tonbridge residents, since they’ve never paid a parish precept.

Distribution of council funds 2017/18 [Estimates]

Service Amount
Refuse collection and recycling £3.4m
Planning and building control £3.1m
Other services (including salaries, elections and public health) £2.7m
Housing £2.4m
Car parking and transportation £2.3m
Leisure centres £2.2m
Corporate management and democratic representation £2.1m
Amenity cleansing £1.6m
Environmental health services £1.4m
Council tax and business rate collection costs £1m
Other areas, including pleasure grounds open spaces, sports grounds £2.8m

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